Intuition

I remember resisting gps navigation when first came out. I was used to taking a moment to looking at a map before I started my route, capturing a picture of it in my mind, plotting the turns and imagining the intersections. Giving myself a "feeling" of how long certain portions of the drive would be, and what landmarks to look out for that would precede turns. intuition
With gps, an external guide, there was something that felt strange about not carrying the bigger picture in my head. Not planning the whole route from beginning to end, mapped out in my mind and plugged into my own memory for guidance. I didn't want to let go of the process and be told what to do in the moment just as a turn was approaching. I wanted to know the next step, anticipate it, and be keenly aware of every moment of the journey.
Gps, felt lazy and out of control, but most importantly, made me feel like I wasn't creating a memory path in my mind. So that I could learn it, and over time rely on my internal computer to guide me with out my conscious mind having to think too much.
I think there's something to be said for exercising the muscle of the mind to create internal maps. There something intelligent that goes on in the process of tightly focusing on the intricate details of your life's journey for periods of time, as you learn the way, and develop a sense of the bigger picture of your world map.

The twists in plots, the dynamics of relating, the powerful moments of self expression, the humble moments of self reflection. All as you manifest your dreams one step at a time.

As learners and shakers on a soulful living path, this process is intentional and sweaty, AND it must eventually fall away. Just as in the driving scenario, where your mind over time of intent focus, learns a map of a city and eventually you could be dropped on any block of it, and find your way to where you want to go; so too, does your muscle of intuition get developed by skillfully witnessing yourself and your balance with the universe.
Watch what seems good, forward moving and on your best path, and learn to recognize the feelings associated with these subtleties. See the times you are in tune or out of tune. Then, and only then, you can let go during the moments of dis-tunement, and trust that though you may be lost, your internal Gps will right you again. You will have worked it enough to let go and be guided from within.

Its nice to be guided by a source greater than ourselves. But that source is not simply an external hand of God. It is a partnership of the world and you in it, learning each other's nuances, and perfecting your dance together. More and more over time, despite big challenges, the mind can step out of the way, and trust in the relationship your highest soulful self has created with the big picture of awesome outcomes.

Let the map and the traveler be one.

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Self Care

This month's theme is
SELF CARE


With all the sniffles and coughs going around, and the totally insane state of the country, it's time to step up your self care routine big time! It's amazing how our mental state can affect our health, so here's
3 tips for better self care!
sleep
1. Get better sleep: install blue light filters on phones and computers, eat your meals earlier in the day so your stomach is empty for sleep, and just plain go to bed earlier. You'd be surprised what an extra hour of rest can do for you!
2. News diet. Seriously people, we have to stay informed but it reaches a limit where watching this level of insanity as it plays out in the media and on our fb pages is just wreaking havoc on our nervous systems. Stay informed, take action where you can, and then take a break from it. It's stressing everyone out, and stress is our biggest health killer.
3. Meditation routine. Steal 10 minutes twice a day for a little "Mind-Cleanse." Simply close your eyes and watch your breath. You can even do this on the subway. To learn more, check out Ella's 4 day course starting next week! Or just drop on on Monday nights 8:30pm.

Be Well!
Jai

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August Theme: Slow

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Okay, New Yorkers, admit it: yogi or not, we’ve all had evil thoughts about that unwitting tourist we end up walking behind down the subway stairs. Even if you’re not running to get somewhere on time, New York trains you to have a certain gait that outpaces most all other people on the planet. Yeah, we live in that city.  What’s cool about it is we get more done in a minute than many do in an hour, but that speed catches up with you when you get to the end of your day and you can’t slow down or shut down. So we come to yoga and meditation to balance it all out.

A few weeks ago, an old knee injury started acting up again. I was in a great deal of pain. The only thing that would work to not aggravate it was to not go anywhere (not an option), or walk really really slowly. Slower than even the most relaxed person living in the deep south on the hottest day of the year. Yeah, that slow.

You can imagine what an odd thing it was to slow down that much. As a New Yorker, I was careful to move out of the way as the typical Ferrari-paced person needed to pass. But almost right away, I started to really enjoy myself. As I walked down a street in Brooklyn, I looked up at the sky, took in the breeze, and noticed the colors on the buildings.  Then something else started to happen. My brain waves became smooth. Not slow, or spacey, actually smooth and clear. All of the stuff on my mind stopped rattling around in a disorderly jumble and started to organize itself like rambunctious kids who finally found their place on stage in the school play.  Something else happened. I heard my breath. I was actually breathing all the way down into my lungs the way I do and teach every day in yoga.

Thich Naht Hahn, a world renowned spiritual leader, guides a beautiful meditation called the “Walking Meditation.” I’ve shared it to many students when we go to the ashram and are walking through the fresh green forest. But I’ve never done it in the city. I could feel my pulse slow, I could feel my cortisol (stress hormone) levels dropping, and my eyes began to see the world through a shine as when I’m in yoga class, or out in nature.

For all the philosophical perspectives I’ve learned and taught to buffer our sensitive systems from metropolitan madness, this very odd, accidental practice had more real physical and mental affect than any of them. Once again, I’m shown that our injuries can be wonderful teachers.

Studies show that slowing down, for even just a small period of time, has been correlated with better decision making, higher levels of creativity, and increased problem solving skills. Taking it slow can also increase our attunement to each other, causing a positive effect on our relationships. In their book “How Words Change your Brain” authors Andrew Newberg and  Mark Robert introduce the practice of Slow Speech. In my yoga class this week I had students take a few minutes to tell a partner about a current challenge in their life speaking one word at a time, at a pace of about half as fast as we usually speak. Students reported feeling a sense of ease surrounding a problem that had been causing them stress, and also a greater appreciation and connection to the person they were listening to.

That day on the sidewalk, my friend who was meeting me for dinner had seen me coming from the restaurant window. When I got there she laughed and said she’d knew better than to wonder if I’d taken drugs, but that’s still what it looked like. I laughed too. “No, no drugs," I told, her, "just trying out a little bit of “slow.”


-Ella Luckett





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May Theme: Dvesa



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Dvesa is an obstacle (klesha) in the way of freedom. It is our avoidance of pain. I noticed during the spring month of April that I had a  lot of internal rules that helped steer me clear of things which even remotely reminded me of past pain or echoed possibility of pain. I'm, at times, too good at learning. Having built up a stockade of "don'ts" I realized this month it was time to tear them down and let myself walk into fires that once burned me. Testing my new layers of unshakable peace and love. You know what? I have learned how much I've grown, how much courage has built up under my scabs, and now I no longer need those thick shells to feel protected. Life is richer, more open, and I am grateful for every new experience, welcoming it in whether it carries potential for pain or not. 

--Ella Luckett


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Loving Kindness by Lauren Slivosky

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This theme has been alive in my life very actively the past few months.  I used to think that in order to maintain good relationships or connections with the people in my life I needed to empathize with them no matter what the emotion.  In this way I attracted a lot of negative energies (insecurity, jealousy, anger, ext.) into my life.  Instead of trying to counteract these people and their emotions with joy and kindness I got bombarded with my own load of negativity for no reason at all but to simply be accepted by others!  As I write about it now it sounds crazy to me but I know that because I've learned that I can't let other people shape me and my emotions, I am very happy with my life and I am now reflecting that in everything I do and towards everyone I meet no matter who they are.  I come across ALL sorts of people at the restaurant and I approach each person with the same kindness and if they try to counteract that with a negative energy I work to maintain an indifference with them as opposed to a frustration.  It's really saved me a lot of my own energy and I'm glad for it, in fact I deal with less negative energy with this approach.  

"Love as an external focus, exterior to you, will always bring a sense of vulnerability, always needing constant validation by someone or something.  Love, as an internal focus projected outward, is a constant flow of self-assurance, self-acceptance, always striving to incorporate and project more of this blissful feeling of unity and harmony with all creation." - Ronna Star

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Living Loving Kindness by Erin Brownell

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About a week ago, I was having a rough morning. Just one of those mornings where everything is going wrong: the weather was terrible, my dog ran through mud and was a mess, I was running late, and then I JUST missed the subway. As the doors shut in my face, part of me wanted to scream. In my head, I was blaming the train conductor for not waiting two more seconds, cursing the guy who was taking forever to swipe his metro card...slipping farther and farther into a bad mood. Pretty much the opposite of loving kindness.

I stepped on the next train, took a deep breath and tried to get it together.
I looked down and seated in front of me was an older woman, who was staring at me. She smiled and motioned me close to her to tell me something. Confused, I looked down to see if I was standing on her bag or something? She then simply said, 'My dear, you have the most beautiful eyes.' I was speechless for a good thirty seconds, so taken by surprise. I thanked her and we talked for a few minutes before I got off. She had changed my entire day, my entire mood, with her kind words. I'm used to the L train being a bit hostile, but this lovely woman was in her own world, one where you see other people. I went on with my day, and tried to take her kindness and carry it with me, passing it on to others. Lately when I feel myself start to get back into that negative place for whatever reason, I think of her. It's amazing what a simple act can do, and how easy it can be if you are mindful of it.

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Listen by Lindsay Myers

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As I've been meditating on the idea of Listening, there has been an excerpt from Siddhartha that has been sitting with me. He comes to a point in his life where he feels as though he has lost his way, and comes upon a river and a ferryman that teach him important lessons. He begins to hear lessons from the river. The excerpt reads:

"He learned from it (the river) unceasingly. Above all he learned from it how to listen, how to listen with a still heart, with an expectant, open soul, without passion, without desire, with-out judgement, without opinion."

I find in my life, that I tend to block out the sounds that I don't want to hear. If they are words from other's, I immediately think of my defensive words as a tool to block the other's out. These are the sounds that end up filling my mind and my body. "They don't understand what you're going through," "What do they know anyways?" "They just need to shut up and leave me alone."

But, if we can learn to tune out these sounds, to go deeper into WHY we feel the need to fill our heads with negativity, we can get deeper to healing. Deeper to a place of loving words, of nurturing. In Siddhartha, he learns this through empty listening. To become a vessel without judgement. To truly open your ears, your mind and your heart without fear of what you may hear.

It's been amazing to me as I've been practicing quieting down my mind just how much it's filled with. I thought it would just be the day to day, what I had to do later, that my leggings were too small for me, was I sitting too close to the person next to me. When I close my eyes and center before class, it's so much deeper. They are sounds have been filling myself with my whole life. So often I avoid these by surrounding myself with MORE sound. Always walking around with headphones on, turning on the TV or scrolling through my phone when I get home instead of simply giving myself a few moments of silence. When I sit in this silence, I have begun to realize these sounds in my mind are harmless. What once controlled my life are just thoughts, just musings. What is more powerful is the light, the I Am that knows better than to listen to that. But to listen to my breath, to listen to my heartbeat, and be slightly reborn every time.

In practicing this, I've found greater self awareness and greater peace and I look forward to what the second half of the month will bring.

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"Listen"

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(Jan Theme 2016: Listen)

There’s a lot of background noise. From the city streets to the mumble of thoughts and worries in your head. Trucks belt out their gas guzzling roar, clashing music wars, arguments and conversations, thousands of people in short radius, talking, thinking, sending out frequencies to interrupt your clear personal connection to your inner peace.
In addition to the external sounds, there’s the clamor of your own internal dialogue. Have you ever slowed down enough to actually witness the many layers of thoughts in your head? The mind wants to dissect, assign value, meaning, judgment, to both yourself and others. It does that to protect you, to help you grow and learn, and progress. It’s an ever running engine. Until you slow down enough, to hear it, you may not even notice it’s been left churning, nor how much of your energy it’s draining to keep itself on.
The process of finding our deepest inner wisdom involves a journey through all this noise, to hear the truth beneath it all. The truth lies in the silence. Beyond the ramblings of the mental mind, the mind of higher intelligence has amazing things to say. But we have to listen.
That place is called the anahat nadam. It’s the nectar of your deepest truth and highest potential. A well spring of unwavering energy, and happiness. It’s always there waiting. If you can slowly start to move in, identifying each distracting sound as a never ending sea of “neti neti” “not this, not this” Eventually the soundless sound prevails, and you are swimming in wisdom and peace.
This month we’ll practice:
Listening to yourself: Meander through the noisy jungle until it gets quiet and there you will emerge.
Listen to others: Listen for their gift to you, for each encounter carries it. Wisdom, love, a lesson, or even just an opportunity to grow as you learn how to best relate to them. Each person has something to say, and appreciates greatly someone who will truly listen to them.
When you become an avid listener your ears become tuned like the top level sound engineer who can hear every detail separate from each other.  Where most people get lost in the noise,  the well versed listener can wade through the bramble of influences that don’t serve the highest in all, and land on truth.  The practice of listening, will help you have compassion and connection with others, and help you feel empowered in your own self. Knowing who you are is the most precious gift that takes a lifetime to discover, and it can only be done when we tune in and listen.


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"Whose Driving this Thing?"

"Whose Driving this Thing?"
-Ella Luckett

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Your on a bus and it's jerky. Speeding up too fast, slamming on the breaks. Your holding on for dear life as you apologize for falling on the person next to you. You can't help but get mad at the driver, the faceless back of a head sitting several yards ahead of you causing tension all over your body. And then you remember to have compassion....  You think, maybe the driver had a hard day, or is behind schedule and doesn't want to get fired. You also remember how lucky you are to be going where ever it is your going. Suddenly your body releases and eases into the turns. Your feet get rooted and the pushes and pulls don't toss you around as much.
Now your driving your own car. It's a long distance to your destination. You start to wish you could stretch your legs, read a book, or take a nap and wake up at your destination. Control is good, but this road is tedious.

Think for a moment of the journey from point a to b as the span of your life, and your body the vehicle.

We have to use the mind like a car engine. It behooves us to look at our surroundings take in the sensory input and make decisions based on what the powerful mind can deduce. Our heart feeds a desire to go somewhere, we have the means to make it happen... or so we think.
But we also have to know the limits of that game. The person in the car still has no control over lights, traffic, accidents and road blocks. It's the person who gets attached to their own control who gets road rage. A self destructive energy that harms no one but the driver. (Well, possibly others if it gets out of control). So like the car driver, enjoy the powerful use of your own will, but know it's limits. Yoga is about practicing the flexibility of switching gears when necessary, to give up your ego and personal desires to the divinity of the universe. A practice we call ishvara pranidad.

So how do you know when to drive hard with your will, or take a breath and evoke trust and release. The answer according to yoga, is svadyaya, the practice of self study. As yogis we are utilizing the tools of monks and sages to contend with a life that's not at all monk like. We are living a life where we still entertain desires and attachment. We can't just completely detach and let go, lest we lose our dreams, goals and passions.

I am a passionate, creative person. Even as a child, my mother describes me as having been"willful."  I couldn't be rushed, I had to do things myself and I always had a vision.  To me, this is the"stuff" of life!  But left unchecked it's also the source of stress and anxiety stemming from over attachment to the results.

This over attachment is what caused the road rage like, self destructive force, to collapse my dance career before it ever began. I didn't have the tools to trust keep flowing, when faced with road blocks. I didn't have the perspective that faith fills in the gaps where the will has no power. I couldn't stand that other people's judgement dictated my destiny. The lack of control destroyed me. I had to leave, I was in so much pain. As the buddah said, the attachment was the source of my suffering.

It wasn't until I find yoga that I learned to ride the bull if my own creative life force. I learned mobility between manifesting passionate intention, and letting go in moments when I had no control. I learned when to push myself forward and when to let the winds of nature fill my sails to move me forward. This playful bounce between tapas (devoted fire) and ishvara pranidad is the key to a fully lived life, following your hearts desire, but not suffering under the weight of its potential attachment.  The only way to know which of these to evoke at any given moment is through the practice of svadyaya, self study.

So keep the fire, but when suffering comes, breath, look inside and ask: are you doing this for yourself? For your ego? Or are you in service to the world? A higher force of nature will either carry you over the wide river, or show you that turning a corner to walk beside it brings you everything you didn't know you desired. 


Embedded within your own will is an atunement with a higher flow. Joining that higher flow brings more riches than your small self could have imagined.


Despite leaving my first dream behind, I never list the intention to have a fulfilling career. An attachment of sorts, but I had to completely let go of what I "thought" that should be. Now I have a career in yoga where I not only get to use my body for self expression, I get too touch people's lives in a powerful way that uses not just my body, but my mind as well.  In this profession I get too constantly learn, I get too use my voice both spoken and written. What seemed like a dead end turned into a better use of my talents than I could have myself imagined.

This decade long lesson is one I try to use now too shorten suffering time. When the passions of the heart reach an impassable block, I'm automatically triggered to breath, let go, and remember joy for what I have. These are the moments the universe has a better idea for me than my own. This is when I remember I'm part of a bigger picture and not the sole driver of this vehicle. 

So whose driving your motion today? Your heart and soul, ego and will, emotions and reactions, or the divine highest spirit itself?  All are licensed drivers but none should have sole control over you.

The ultimate driver is the omnipresent guide you connect with through a meditative practice. The one who switches seamlessly between the forces of the body mind and soul. This all knowing nature banks the curves, taps into the current, and flows with life in all its grand momentum.


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Namaste